Utah’s Proposed Pull-Out/Turn-Off Law
HB 402 (2008s1)
HB 73 (2009s1)
Concerns over the proposed law, a bicyclist’s point of view
Legal (Civil) concerns
We cyclists all agree that we “should” (and most do) pull over when safe/feasible. The primary issue some of us have is the civil litigation implications of such a law in regards to “comparative negligence” reducing the award benefit; in that a judge/jury, quite some time after an incident, gets to decide what was a “safe” condition to pull over, where the cyclist may have had to make a split second decision at 40mph. Also, as the conditions change constantly, what is reviewed days or even a few hours later can be drastically different that the conditions at the time. The cyclist is not always available to testify on their own behalf due to blackout or other more serious injuries.
Minimum Speed Regulations
There is also a concern in regards to §41-6a-605. Minimum speed regulations, where a transportation department could impose a minimum speed requirement after study:
“(3) (a) If, based on an engineering and traffic investigation, a highway authority determines that slow speeds on any part of a highway under its jurisdiction consistently impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, the highway authority may post a minimum speed limit.”
The concern would be in a situation such as Emigration Canyon. In meetings we are already getting friction on the delaying vehicle aspect of “some” riders. This would now give the residents in the canyon a new standard to shoot for in making their argument that we don’t belong there if cyclists “constantly impede” and could technically lobby for a 15mph speed limit which would effectively eliminate bikes in the corridor.
Marked Turnouts (or lack of mention thereof)
Most other western states make reference to a marked turnout of some sort (or other safe place) which gives direction as to some expectation of what a turnout should be. The highway districts would need to be accountable in creating turnouts which meet recognized standards. This would further reinforce the notion of where it is “expected” that one should be pulling over.
Currently many shoulders in both urban and rural areas are poorly maintained. While travelling up-hill, a cyclist can easily avoid shoulders where there are minimal debris. However, on the way down hitting a rock at 40mph on most road bikes can be disastrous. A cyclist only has a brief second to “see” the condition of the shoulder or turn-out and make a decision from 50’ away of whether or not they can slow or stop safely without hitting debris while breaking.
The largest problem I see here is the "use-ability" of such shoulders, plus motorists will assume we "have" to pull over every time there is a driveway etc. I DO pull over when I can, however, there are consequences to having language "requiring" us to pull over if it were litigated in an accident and then having to prove that it wasn't "safe" when a cyclist has to make this decision as he/she is riding down the hill and what they can/cannot see in the shoulder.
Motorcycles could also suffer from this decision making process. Stopping a “slow moving” motorcycle riding with two passengers and a trailer is equally dangerous if they were to hit debris with the front wheel.
Although defined elsewhere as more that 10,000#, it is not clear in this language what the intent was. There may be confusion to the general public to include every bread and delivery truck on the road, which actually 10,000# may qualify many of the larger UPS and Fed-X trucks.
I can understand the fact that tractor-trailer rigs don’t want to have to pull over, but these vehicles would in most cases be exempt anyways under the “when safe to do so” language as most of the “current” turnouts are not large enough for them. However, everyone else should pull over just like us cyclists should as well when we can. No other statutes which I have reviewed have this language: (AS, ID, CA) and everyone I spoke with is equally confused by that language.
Number of Vehicles Required and Speed
Five vehicles seem high for Utah for its intended purpose. In other states it ranges from three to five and in rural areas which I may be "driving" it would take hours for five vehicles to stack up. There is also no provision for delaying vehicles while travelling at a safe or reasonable speed (such as the speed limit).
Presentation by Sponsor
In his presentation in 2008, the sponsor stated that this only “clarifies” the existing law to pull over. However, I believe to be an error. Nowhere in current law was I able to locate where it requires vehicles impeding the normal flow of traffic to actually leave their lane of travel upon a 2 lane highway. I believe he was referring to the “make way” provision in the law being amended which means in my lay view that once a vehicle has started to pass, you must not make un-reasonable efforts to interfere with the pass. Vehicles impeding normal flow of traffic have the same directive as bicycles, stay to the far right of the road way (left of the shoulder technically) as practicable. I think he was getting the new law passed in 2007 where vehicles on a multi-lane highway travelling in the left lane must pull over to a lane to the right.
Cyclist’s Momentum Comments
Comments on losing momentum can get confused in their motivation and meaning. Yes it is inconvenient for us to have to stop on a grade. The point is in how the change in “requirement” impacts cyclists a bit differently than a motor vehicle. A motorist just had to put their foot on the gas, a cyclists has to expend a lot more personal energy and time to get back to their prior pace than a car does. This is to point out that there is a difference between motor vehicles and bicycles (not an excuse not to stop) in changes such as this, and such effects should be taken into consideration as all are not impacted equally. Likewise, this “may” be in part the reason for the commercial vehicle exception.
A cyclist passes an opportunity to pull out in a "paved" turnout because previous vehicles have placed a lot of debris in the area due to leaving the pavement kicking up gravel. (Keep in mind on a road like Big Mt., 10-11’ and no shoulder, we could be delaying traffic, downhill as well going 40mph the speed limit with no provision for delaying speeders and hitting a rock at this speed frequently results in immediate loss of air and possibly causing a crash which is dangerous even if you don't "fall" into traffic)
So, a vehicle makes an "unsafe" pass because they felt you were suppose to pull over, then they have to swerve to avoid an oncoming car and force or hit the cyclist off the road.
Their side could make the argument for "comparative or contributory negligence" reducing or eliminating any reward and the cyclist would have to "prove" that it wasn't safe (remember hind-site is 20/20 and what may look "safe" when standing there looking at it "later", may not have looked safe at the time you were grinding up the hill with sweat all over, bent over the handlebars etc or at 40mph where the road vibrations make it hard to see minute details in the roadway).
There is a concern with auto insurance companies as the defendant (such as St. Farm) who has huge volumes of "unpublished" court cases to draw from to figure out what works and doesn't in court. And the Plaintiff attorney, no matter how good they are, don't usually have access to such records having to defend the cyclists position (who may be incapacitated or blacked out as a result of the accident) in court, as in court, "justice is blind" and it does not matter who is "right" it only matters what you can prove in court.